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I do not think I have seen anyone run any kind of correlation between the explosion of social media and the subsequent explosion of social media listening tools, but I think it’s safe to assume that the two are related in some way. From 2007 (when I was first exposed to the tools) until the present day, the application of listening tools has also evolved. At first companies were using tools like Radian6 and Sysomos much like they were using Factiva and Cision — to read and respond during a time of crisis. That’s a perfectly fine application, but it is only about 1/10th of the power these tools posses.

It is only over the last two years that we have truly seen listening tools used to its full potential by brands, and even that adoption is limited to the usual suspects. What do I mean by using tools to the full potential? I mean gathering conversation data in real time to change content to meet the community’s needs. I mean gathering real-time feedback on your product(s) and feeding it to the product development team. I also mean using listening data for proactive customer service outreach. How many of those applications are you currently undertaking today? Granted, not everyone of them will make sense, but the bottom line is if you are using a listening tool for only corporate reputation you are not getting your money’s worth.

So how do you turn your existing listening program into something that offers much more value to your organization? At last week’s Explore Social Media in Minneapolis I outlined seven steps. Here they are:

  1. Think toolbox, not tool – There is not a data capture tool on the market today that will serve all of your needs. Listening tools are powerful, to be sure, but they do not capture everything. Think about what combination of tools — customer service, web analytics, search analytics, conversation analytics — you need to be successful.
  2. Develop a social intelligence supply chain – Using the toolbox above, how do you route and display information within the organization? This is a critical step that is most often overlooked.
  3. Institutionalize standard metrics and models – Presenting the same metrics and using the same approach to data gathering is essential to delivering actionable insights and ensuring overall credibility.
  4. Determine the right reporting cadence – There are different models for different audiences. For example, if you are presenting to an executive audience then it makes the most sense to roll up data every quarter. If you are using the data for real-time content, though, it may make more sense to present findings every week.
  5. Using analysts to hand code data – While the tools are becoming more sophisticated, nothing yet replaces the analyst who understands the business and the tools.
  6. Protocols for crises – If you are familiar with your issues, know what drives share of conversation, know who the influencers are, know who you would talk to in crisis, know the top search words people use then you are in good shape. Do you know all of those?
  7. Build a team who understands the business – This goes hand-in-hand with #5, but having analysts who understand the tools and the business is absolutely essential. It’s the only way you will develop actionable insights.

Those are the primary building blocks to building an effective social media listening program at your organization. If you would like to see more of my presentation to Explore Social Media the deck is below.

 

 

Data overload is real. Yes, this is coming from the guy who has said on more than one occasion that the biggest problem in digital analytics isn’t too much data, but rather too few insights. I still believe that to be true, but in this case I mean marketers are bombarded by research (saving for a moment any editorial commentary on whether that research is good or bad) that attempts to identify cross-platform digital trends. Think for a moment about all of the various blog posts you have seen over the last few months presenting data about how Facebook Timeline is performing (or not as the case may be). Those posts alone are enough to leave marketers wondering what works, and who spiked the punch of researchers claiming to have answers to a “problem” that is entirely too complex to answer by aggregating unrelated data points. Oops, editorial commentary slipped in there…

There are, believe it or not, reliable sources of trend data out there for marketers to reference when making strategic and tactical decisions. One such piece of research was just released by Edison Research and Arbitron called, “The Social Habit.” During BlogWorld & New Media Expo in New York this week, Tom Webster, VP of Strategy for Edison, presented some of the top-level findings from this year’s report. This report, by the way, is in its 20th iteration, which likely means it has delivered significant value to its consumers over time. At any rate, Tom delivered the data in a very useful way with some high-level findings for everyone in the audience to take back to their jobs. What did I find valuable from the study? Quite a few things, including:

  • Social networkers check their profiles often – Of the survey participants, 66% of people checked their social sites daily, with 25% checking their Facebook page at least five times per day. What does that mean for brands? One of the things that initially popped to mind was the importance of optimizing your content for day of week and time of day. Now, I’m not advocating that you use the existing data on this subject, as most of it is improperly aggregated and not useful. If you haven’t done this research for your brand, it is now time to start.
  • Understanding the mobile experience is critical – It will come as a galloping shock to nobody that people utilize their mobile device to access social sites. What may come as a surprise, however, is that 33% of people view Facebook most via phone. The number is slightly less for Twitter (25%), but still substantial. How important is mobile for social networks and brands to get right? Answering “very important” would be a pretty good response.
  • Visual content is king – By now we have all likely encountered the statistic that about 65% of people are visual learners. The people who are active social networkers are no exception to that rule. In this survey, 55% of social networkers have “watched video clips or other Internet video programming from YouTube in the last week.” When looking at the general population of this survey (online Americans aged 12+), the number is still a staggeringly high 37%. Have you taken a look at your YouTube channel recently? If not, now would be a good time.
  • Users of social networking sites are following brands now more than ever – This is one that you might expect wouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone “in the business,” but when Tom talked about this during the presentation I was stunned. Consider that over the last two years brand-following behavior has almost doubled, with 79% of Facebook users following a brand and 9% doing the same on Twitter. To assume your customers aren’t watching you on those channels is folly, yet there are still those brands that doubt the value of social. Knowing that the customer is watching should be a powerful motivator for those skeptics.
  • Facebook does impact buying decisions – In this survey, 47% of respondents said that content on Facebook had impacted their buying decisions. If you are managing a brand page right now what are you doing to ensure that you are delivering the right content at the right time to drive that conversion? No, it isn’t all about the sale, but when so many openly admit to being influenced by what they see on a platform how could you not pay greater attention?
  • It is not all about the coupon – THANK GOODNESS! Respondents were asked in the survey why they enjoyed following a brand, and 56 times they said coupons/discounts. Now, that was the number one answer, but only about 16% of the responses. Also frequently mentioned were a favorable opinion of the business or product, learning about new products and content/ideas. Please retailers; do not fall exclusively into the coupon/discount game. This survey shows that your Facebook consumer cares about a lot more than just a 10% savings this weekend.

Those were just some of the key highlights that I gleaned. To download the rest of the data all you need to do is head over to SocialHabit.com and enter some quick information. Hopefully you get as much out of the report as I did.

 

 

Over the last few years communicators have had a ringside seat to the biggest shift in their profession since, well, the creation of broadcast television. Consider for a moment that Facebook has now crossed 900 million users , Pinterest reached 10 million unique visitors faster than any standalone site ever, and Twitter has 140 million active users and what communicators are faced with now is a burgeoning community of creators not consumers. Sure, the largest online population is still those who consume content but the numbers of people who contribute and share is growing substantially. This has several implications for communicators, not the least of which is factoring in new channels into the mix.

The other, and this is less something we can control is the number of people looking to break into this business for companies or agencies. Unfortunately, the social media space is moving at a pace that far outstrips the availability of quality talent. I don’t mean to be unfair about this, but the number of people who have executed social media campaigns for the Fortune 500 is small. It isn’t a matter of setting up a Facebook page or managing a Twitter account. The best social media professionals are part marketer, part behavioral psychologist, part businessman/woman and part number cruncher. Ah numbers. You knew I was getting there eventually, right?

If the talent gap in social media is huge, the analytics talent gap in those spaces is equally as big. Whenever you tweet, like, comment or click you are creating a data point for someone to analyze. It is not that simple, though. Analyzing those top-level metrics is only one part of the equation. Can you take those metrics and turn them into a communications or business insight? Many people know how to collect data and put it into a presentation. Fewer people know how to collect the data, put it into a presentation that highlights insights that improve the business or a communications program.

This is not going to be a trend that slows down, by the way. I am seeing a greater number of agencies and companies looking to hire directors and vice presidents in the hopes of raising their respective games in this space. Will it work? I suppose only time will tell, but hiring a leader of analytics DEFINITELY makes sense. Unfortunately, as someone who has been looking to fill these roles at three agencies I can tell you that they do not grow on trees. Most of us have various backgrounds that do not necessarily scream “analytics.”

How do we make sure that we have a greater talent pool to pick from? Well, colleges and universities are starting to do that for us by creating analytics programs, but there is still more the existing community can do to combat the problem. Some of those things include:

  • Understanding what goes into a proper analytics job description. Knowledge of social monitoring tools is important, but not nearly the only thing we should be looking at to evaluate candidates. The ability to navigate Microsoft Excel, using web-based tools like Google Insights and optimizing presentations are also important.
  • Have an open mind. There are not a lot of people who have extensive experience in social analytics. Sometimes you have to step outside of your hiring comfort zone to hire the right person.
  • Some skills DO NOT show up on a resume or LinkedIn profile. Are you naturally inquisitive? If the answer is yes, and I can snuff that out in an interview (you would be surprised) you have a big leg up in the process. When was the last time you saw “naturally inquisitive” on a resume? I know I haven’t. This speaks a little bit to bullet #2, but the skills of an analyst don’t easily translate to the traditional resume or LinkedIn profile.
  • Evangelizing on behalf of the space. If you feel comfortable blogging or speaking on the topic of analytics and are currently employed by a company or agency, do it! Potential employees need to hear from people already in the space more often than they do. Those of us already doing the work are extremely passionate about it. That passion translates. Trust me.

The talent gap in social analytics isn’t going to close overnight. Neither will the talent gap that my friend Jim Storer talked about within the community/social strategist ranks. There are some tangible things we can start to do, though, to close that gap. Some of those things I have highlighted above. Others will come over time as the existing talent pool gains more experience. The situation isn’t dire yet, but it will be if we don’t start addressing the problem now. What do you think? For those of you in a hiring position, are Jim and I crazy?

How many times have you read a blog post or seen tweets over the last two years arguing that conferences have no value? That all conferences are good for anymore is networking? Or, my personal favorite, speakers are bringing old, stale content to audiences instead of fresh ideas. There is a shred of truth to all of those comments. Conference attendees typically see the same speakers at every show who utilize very similar content in their presentations. What is interesting is that you often hear these charges levied by those who do a lot of the speaking. Interesting, huh?

Over the course of 2012, I will likely speak at over 10 events across the country. When I am speaking at events I often have very little time to pay attention to the other speakers. I try my best to focus on speakers before and after my talk, but it is hard. Before my talks I am focused on the key talking points I want to convey, and after my brain has shut down after being “on” for an hour in front of a few hundred people. If you speak at a lot of events, I am sure you can come here and confirm that feeling.

Last week I had an opportunity to attend an event in Knoxville, Tennessee called Social Slam. I wasn’t speaking, but I had heard enough good things about this event from people I trusted that I looked into it. With the good fortune of a few open days on the calendar I booked my ticket to Knoxville. This was the first time I was attending an event and not speaking in quite a long time so I was looking forward to soaking up the content. Let me tell you right now the content did NOT disappoint. A few things I am taking away:

  • Tom Webster makes volumes of social data approachable – Tom and I come at analytics problems from two different backgrounds, but I think we eventually come to the same conclusions. That said, Tom is much better than I am at making data approachable. I have seen him speak on a few occasions, and yes, Tom speaks at quite a few events, but I don’t think I noticed just how approachable he makes this subject until I had an opportunity to truly listen.
  • 50 huge ideas in 50 minutes – There is very little variety in session formats these days. Either we have a solo speaker, a keynote or a panel. At Social Slam Mark Schaefer put together easily the most innovative conference session I had seen in a few years. The 50 huge ideas in 50 minutes concept was five speakers each with 10 minutes providing big ideas on their area of expertise. For example, Stephanie Wonderlin gave 10 fantastic ideas to make video marketing more approachable. During the same session, Stanford Smith gave some great ideas for how to improve your blog. Bottom line was that these sessions were great for the audience and the speakers. A number of people came up to each of the speakers afterwards asking for additional advice. As a speaker, there’s nothing better than getting follow-up questions after your talk.
  • Breakout sessions appealed to all audiences – Right after lunch, there were three different panel sessions all focusing on varying levels of expertise. In one session, D.J. Waldow, Stanford Smith, Stephanie Wonderlin and Marcus Sheridan provided useful tips for getting started in social media. In another Sam Fiorella, Eric Pratum and Sean McGinnis dove into the interplay between social and search. Finally, Jay Baer, Amy Kenly, Clinton Bonner and Gary Schirr talked about using social media to drive product innovation. Any conference organizer will tell you just how difficult it is to appeal to the varying skill levels of an audience. These three sessions did just that. There was literally something for everyone.

Before I go any further, I wanted to give kudos to Mark Schaefer, the volunteers and all of the speakers for putting on a spectacular event. Social Slam opened my eyes to the value of conference content again. As a result of this experience I know I will be looking for more opportunities to attend events and not speak. This field is too new for us to stop learning and only speak. I would encourage you to do the same by finding the Social Slam equivalent in your area.

 

 

We all have our bucket list items. Whether it is jumping out of an airplane, running your own company or traveling around the world, there is a good chance you have several items you would like to accomplish before all is said and done. For me, one of those items is writing a book. I started down this path once before, but for a lot of reasons the time wasn’t right so I gave up the pursuit. Now that I’m back in Austin and more settled, the timing couldn’t be better to pick up the pursuit once again.

That is a lot of build up for me not to say what I am sure you have already guessed – I am joining Bob Pearson, Aaron Strout and Spike Jones in the WCG book club. What makes this even more exciting is that I am doing it with my good friend Ken Burbary. There are few people I respect more within the digital analytics, social media and digital marketing worlds than Ken, so when this opportunity arose he was my first call. What are we going to be writing about you might be asking? Well, digital analytics, of course! The title of the book is still being finalized, but the premise of the book is that companies are faced with a mountain of digital data that is largely underutilized.. Similarly, those same companies struggle to find and utilize tools that help them gather and analyze data. Those are just two of the items we will be tackling in this book. Some of the other issues we will address include:

  • Measuring social media – We will be covering multiple digital analytics topics, but would be remiss if we didn’t tackle this 800lb gorilla in the room. Ken and I approach analytics from different backgrounds (but similar perspectives) so you should expect to see very practical social media measurement advice in this book. How do we create integrated measurement plans? What are some metrics companies can use to measure success on paid, earned and owned channels? Is there more to the world of measurement than ROI? These are just some of the social media questions the book will answer.
  • Elevating listening within the organization – The first time Ken and I collaborated was back in October 2009 when we introduced the Social Analytics Lifecycle. The premise then was that listening data has utility beyond public relations and marketing, and I think I can safely speak for Ken when I say we still feel the same way now. That being said, the number of organizations capitalizing on listening data in this way is minimal. This book will give you some tips and tricks to elevate listening within your organization.
  • Understanding, measuring and defining influence – This isn’t a book on influence, but to not tackle some of the tools, processes and algorithms available on the market would be a missed opportunity in our opinion. There is a lot of misunderstanding about this topic and our hope is that we can turn the boat around.
  • Paid media analytics – The book is far from written, but there’s a very good chance that we will be preaching INTEGRATION throughout. While the world has been hyper-focused on social data (rightfully so in a lot of respects), we have missed an opportunity to bring in paid data to make the social story stronger. This is one of the many reasons I’m excited to be partnering with Ken on this book as he has spent the last several years focused on this topic.

That is just a quick sneak preview. We will be covering these topics and more in great depth in the book. For those of you wondering when it is going to be released, it is tentatively scheduled to be released in early January of 2013. Both Ken and I are very pleased to be working with Pearson on this title, especially after they successfully launched Jason Falls’ book several months ago.

I would be remiss if I left off perhaps the most important aspect of this book. Ken and I have decided to follow the lead of Michael Brito and donate the proceeds of the book to charity. Ken’s charity is the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association, and mine is Superhero Kids. I’ll let Ken talk about RSDSA, but Superhero Kids is a local Austin organization whose mission is to provide funding for the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas to enhance the quality of life for patients and their families during treatment. I can’t imagine a more deserving local charity that assists kids with cancer.

There are too many people to thank for pushing me toward this pursuit. Needless to say if you are one of them, you’ll be hearing from me throughout this process with a word of thanks. We’re looking forward to this book, and hope you are looking forward to reading it.

This was an exciting week within the halls of WCG. The analytics team, now approaching 40 people, was assembled in Austin for two days of training and development. It was the first time that the entire group has been assembled to talk about our models, our work and, most importantly, share our collective experiences with the goal of producing high quality work for our clients.

The WCG analytics team has grown tremendously over the last three years. When I joined the team in January of 2010 we were in a small office outside of downtown and there were only a handful of us doing analytics work for clients. Now, the team brings a wealth of experience beyond social analytics. We have a strong, and diverse team now with skills in web analytics, search, and traditional market research. These new team members have come in and built on our strong footprint in social analytics.

These two days in Austin have left me super-charged to be back at a firm that places such a high value on analytics. WCG is unique because everyone has bought into the idea that analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. It’s one of the reasons I was excited to rejoin the firm back in January. Want the rest? Well, here you go…

  1. Executive leadership has a deeply rooted belief in the power of analytics Jim Weiss, Bob Pearson, Tony Esposito, Diane Weiser, Paulo Simas, Gail Cohen, Jennifer Gottlieb, Leslie Wheeler, Craig Alperowitz and a host of others at the senior leadership level believe analytics is at the foundation of everything we do. They’ve invested time and energy in helping to build analytics models that benefit clients, and also position the firm as an innovative thought leader in a very crowded space. For someone who works in analytics and had their value challenged frequently, having senior leadership approval is a comforting thing.
  2. Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson – I know I mentioned Jim and Bob above, but I want to call them out separately for taking a chance on me – twice! I asked to come back to a place that I left, and they welcomed me back with open arms They have also given me a simple mission: “Help us do great work for our clients and continue to innovate.” How can you not be charged up by something like that?
  3. The best analytics team in the business – As I mentioned above, the team has grown and added some incredibly strong people like Tim Marklein, Seth Duncan and Amy Jackson. If you don’t know them, you should. Keep watching for what the analytics team develops. Shock and awe doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  4. Brian Reid – There are not many people in communications whose opinion on the media I trust more than Brian’s. It could be because he was a writer at the Washington Post, but more likely it is his intense curiosity to understand the evolving digital landscape. I have had some great discussions about the topic of online influence with people who you might know better than Brian, but I’ll tell you that few (if any) will make you rethink your stance on the topic more than him.
  5. Everyone who has welcomed me back or believed I could make a difference when coming back – Again, it could be seen as cliché to say that it feels like I never left, but it’s true. It really feels like I never left. This group of people is literally too long to list, and I’d be afraid of leaving someone off. If I haven’t thanked you in person yet, rest assured that I will at some point soon.

So there you have it… I could literally list 60 reasons why I am happy to be back at WCG, but that would make for the longest blog post in history. It’s great being in a place where I feel like I belong. Lets keep doing great work for clients, and making some serious thought leadership waves. It is time to GO. AHEAD.

The amount of data available to social media practitioners is staggering. Think about it for a second. If you visit a Facebook page you have created a data point. Clicking “like” on a post creates another data point. If you find an amazing piece of content and share it, you have created another data point. You can start to see the point, right? To not use data would be a crime because there is so much of it available. Of course, the amount of data is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because we can make smarter decisions with our budget, but it’s a curse because we have to do a significant amount of work to develop insights from that data.

Data availability isn’t a problem for social analytics professionals. In fact, it’s the reason most of us are employed. No, from my perspective there are three big issues facing social analytics professionals. They are:

  • Scaling listening across a big enterprise – The importance of listening to social conversations is widely understood at this point. What isn’t as widely understood is how valuable that listening data is across the organization. While most listening efforts start in public relations and marketing, the data would likely be available to HR, sales, product development, strategic planning, etc… Unfortunately, setting up the infrastructure to funnel data to other parts of the organization is hard. When you’re talking about a large organization the process is even more difficult. However, social analytics professionals need to continue pushing that agenda forward. Right now, we’re only capitalizing on a small percentage of the data’s true value.
  • Measuring social media – This is likely to be a problem for the foreseeable future as we look for a standard approach that all can implement. Don’t hold your breath. If we can learn anything from the debate over traditional media measurement it is that the chances of landing on a standardized approach is small. We are beginning to arrive at a set of best practices, but standardization isn’t likely any time soon.
  • Bringing more rigor to influencer identification – At WCG we have built our own proprietary algorithm to measure influence. There are a number of other tools available on the marketplace that are loaded with challenges (you don’t need me to name them for you). The bottom line is that we need as much rigor as we can possibly manage when developing an influencer list. It’s no longer acceptable to download from a tool and engage. What shape that algorithm takes in the end is still to be determined, but analytics professionals need to be pushing, innovating and changing.

I had the opportunity this week to discuss these issues in more depth during a talk for Social Media Club Seattle. I’ve included the deck here in case you would like to see more of my point-of-view. What challenges are you seeing from an analytics perspective?

Social Media Club Seattle Presentation

View more presentations from WCG

WCG’s Chuck Hemann, Director of Analytics, spoke yesterday at the Social Fresh Conference on how organizations can use listening data across multiple business units, not just PR and marketing. Today, social media strategist Nate Riggs sat down with Chuck to discuss this topic further and find out more about how enterprises can use social media insights. Thanks Nate and Chuck!

Chuck Hemann on Social Business Design at Social Fresh East

Nate’s post: http://www.nateriggs.com/2012/02/07/chuck-hemann-shares-more-on-making-social-media-insights-work-in-the-enterprise/content-marketing-consulting

Raise your hand if you are listening to conversations online about your brand, competitors or industry? Over the course of the last several years the number of people who would raise their hand after getting such a question has gone up considerably. Whether it’s using free alerts setup through Google, or a paid solution like Radian6, chances are good most of you are doing some listening.

Back in 2009, Ken Burbary and I were discussing how listening data moved throughout the organization. Our hypothesis, and one that I think is still valid today, was that companies were underutilizing listening data. The visual we created, called the social analytics lifecycle, argued that listening data had applications in strategic planning, product development, customer care, sales and many other parts of the organization. Some were more strategic applications and others involved using the listening data for tactical implementation.

What we were talking about back then is still valid, but adoption within companies has been much slower than we anticipated. Why? The easy answer is that scaling ANYTHING at a large company is very difficult. The other part of that answer is that most companies don’t have a strategic approach to listening. What does that look like?

  • Goal setting – What are you actually trying to achieve by listening to consumer conversations? You’ll likely get varying answers depending on the part of the organization you ask, and that’s OK. But far too often we’re launching blindly without an idea of what we’re trying to achieve.
  • Internal resources – Listening isn’t something that just magically happens. Resources internally need to be identified. In an ideal world, listening is an extension of your market research activities so the function lives within that group. If it’s not market research initially, that’s OK. All that you really need to get the ball rolling is someone who understands the goals, tools and can successfully turn data into insights to champion the value across the organization.
  • Picking a tool – There are literally hundreds of tools on the market, and picking one tends to be an arduous process. However, if you’re goal is to eventually scale listening beyond PR and marketing that limits the number of tools you can effectively use. One final public service announcement on picking a tool – DON’T BE THE COMPANY THAT PICKS A TOOL WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING YOUR GOAL OR HAVING RESOURCES IDENTIFIED
  • Developing a response matrix – You’ve all seen those flow charts for positive, negative and neutral comments, right? Before you start using listening data for engagement, you’ll need to develop one. If you need an example, check out this one from the Air Force.
  • How other business units come on board – Most listening programs start in PR or marketing, but eventually others will want to be invited to the party. At the outset, decide how those other business units will come ‘online.’
  • Develop your reporting approach – This includes not only how often you’ll be reporting, but also what will go in the reports themselves. Best practice reports attempt to identify who is talking, what are they saying, when are they saying it, where they are talking and, to some degree, why they are talking. Think about it as the five W’s of social media listening.

Those are some really simple steps to begin the scaling process, but ultimately it’s a cultural shift within companies. You have to want to listen to what your customers are saying. Or, if you’re in human resources for example, listening to current and prospective employers.

I’ll be discussing this topic in more depth at next week’s Social Fresh conference in Tampa, Florida. If you’re planning to be there, please come up and